We know the NFL's Top 100 list is hardly a perfect science. Players around the league don't have time to go back and watch every game nor do they always take the time to diagnose how their peers are actually performing. Regardless, there's always something intriguing about the NFL Network's release of the top 100 players list.
Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers had just two representatives from their entire team crack the top 100. These were former 2021 Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt, and 2021 All-Pro Defensive lineman, Cameron Heyward. This time last year, heading into the 2022 season, Heyward ranked 42nd overall on the list, while Watt was considered the 6th-best overall player in the NFL.
A lot can change in one year, and we certainly expect it to. Last year, Watt suffered a pectoral injury in Week 1 and he did not return to the field until Week 10. It also took him a bit to get back up to speed when he finally saw the field again. On the other hand, Minkah Fitzpatrick probably played the best football of his NFL career so far to date in 2022.
So which Pittsburgh Steelers players will crack the NFL's Top 100 in 2023 and where could they land in the rankings?
T.J. Watt, EDGE
2022 rank: 6th
2023 prediction: 16th
Let's start with the player who should still be the most obvious on this list: T.J. Watt. Despite his injury-plagued 2022 season, Watt is still the best player on this team and will be regarded as such. Unfortunately, the inability to stay on the field last year will no doubt impact his positioning on the list. It's not a question of whether or not Watt makes the cut, but rather where he will land.
Other than pointing to how awful the Pittsburgh Steelers were without him last year, there's really no way to justify that Watt will earn the 6th spot like he did last year. While he was injured, young edge defenders like Nick Bosa and Micah Parsons really elevated their game.
Still, Watt is one of the most well-respected defenders in the league, and he has the accolades to prove it. This offseason, All-Pro offensive tackle, Lane Johnson, listed him among the top five pass rushers in the game. Watt is a nightmare to face when healthy, and he should still rank high despite missing time last season. I do, however, have him falling to 16th on the NFL's Top 100